Living in the 21st century we know well how the voices of a few can liberate a mass. Ted talks are such influential platforms where expert speakers come forward on topics and ideologies that matter from education, business, science, tech, and creativity to astounding real-life stories of the world we reside in. It is an American media organization that posts talks online under the belief “ideas worth spreading”. The local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event.
One such TEDx event introduced “The effect of masculine & feminine principles in architecture”, by Australian Architect Jo Gillies who has a passion for revealing the hidden meaning behind a design. Jo Gillies studied Architecture at Sydney University and an Honours degree with a thesis focused on the Public Squares of Europe which increased her awareness of the impact of design on people. Gender Focus is not the issue but more of a sensitivity and ideology based on balance, fluidity, style, engineering, and sustainability issues.
She starts by saying that Architecture is all around us yet the most undervalued thing in our society. The masculine and feminine principles come into play to balance and create provocative, inspiring, and seductive designs. The notion of equilibrium and the beautiful tension between the two works as inspiration. A very familiar example given by Jo Gillies of Yin Yang is the perfect harmony of the male and female dynamic which defines the fundamental philosophy of life. Then another famous philosophy by Leonardo da Vinci called the Vitruvian Man, compares the working of the human body as an analogy to the workings of the universe in regards to the mathematical proportions in terms of the human body and sacred geometry.
Jo Gillies then shares a very personal and dark event in her life where being a victim of assault made her a bit masculine and practicing in a male- dominant field of architecture didn’t help much. To add a broader eco-spiritual approach to architecture, she traveled to Africa in 2011. Then after spending some time in 2013 with Australian Aboriginal elders experiencing stories about Songlines, that finally inspired her to combine her unique blend of design principles with a more sustainably spiritual orientation.
Jo’s childhood passion for Architecture, Art, and a constant search for balance with our being and the built spaces. One of the mentors introduced her to the very elegant concept of golden mean where the rectangle boxes are masculine while the curves are feminine as seen at play even in nature. Her new lens of looking at the world made her appreciate and differentiate between spaces.
With the list of examples below she explains the concept more clearly.
1. Sydney Opera House by architect Jørn Utzon is an inspirational example of modern architecture where the male-female dynamic partakes in a perfect play, where the structure with the graceful feminine curves sits on an anchoring plinth.
2. Brutal architecture building New Reich Chancellery by architect Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect from the Third Reich, whose mandate was to design buildings that appeared heavy, angular, and imposing in an attempt to intimidate people and make them feel submissive. This fascist architecture was meant to be masculine-oriented. Cold heartless architecture leaves one very disconnected and shut off.
3. Niterói Contemporary Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro is designed by Brazilian Architect Oscar Niemeyer who got his concept as inspiration from the female form.
4. Metropol Parasol is a wooden structure building in Seville, Spain by German Architect Jürgen Hermann Mayer, which has a curved form like a mushroom-shaped roof in contrast to the geometric buildings surrounding the structure. People love to visit this place as they feel inspired and connected with the feminine generosity of space design.
5. Tjibaou Cultural Centre in New Caledonia is designed by an Italian Architect Renzo Piano for the local Kanak people. It steeps masculine and feminine traditions and respects the balance by creating curved timbre baton forms of the pointed spiralling roof structure. A concept echoed by symbolizing the hub ancient tradition which spirals up to the heavens is feminine by nature while the anchoring rooting to the ground is masculine. From the symmetric pathway to the trees on either side of the structure, the references of masculine and feminine features are fierce.
6. Kilden Performing Arts Centre in Finland by ALA Architects protrudes a graceful plinth that blunts the sharpness of the imposing roof.
The spatial dynamic of the four elements, i.e., Earth- solidity, and connection; Fire- Sun and light; Water- flow and fluidity and; Wind- breeze and airflow. It’s a toolkit for architects to use while designing to achieve the balance of both forms. We as humans strive for peace, inner balance, and equilibrium which can be provided through the balancing of the two spiritual pillars of masculinity and femininity. Ultimately, it’s about creating spaces we love to be in and achieving balance in the pendulum of life.